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Double Butte Loop Trail – A Short but Unique Hike in Papago Park 

double butte loop trail papago park

Hiking Lenght: 2.3 miles

Elevation Gain: 118 feet

Hiking Time: 1 hour

People often ask me to recommend trails that aren’t too challenging or hikes that families with small children can do. Since I knew that many of the hikes near Phoenix were on the more difficult side, I made a point to seek out an easy one. 

When I found the Double Butte Loop Trail, a distinctive hike in Papago Park, I knew I would add it to my list.

Papago Park is known as one of the “Points of Pride” for hiking in the Tempe area and is very accessible to get to from the city. The park has impressive scenery and popular hiking trails. 

Papago Park hike makes a good option for families in the area that are visiting the Phoenix Zoo, as you access it from this same park.

This hiking trail also doesn’t take that long to complete, making it an excellent scenic detour before or after visiting the zoo. 

Before setting out on this popular Papago Park trail, here’s everything you need to know. 

Great hike gets hot but that is expected easy to follow trail with a lot of side trails. Overall great easy hike for everyone family and kids, from payment to dirt trails with places to sit and eat.

Mykhaylo Hreshko, Pro Hiker

Where is Papago Park Trail? 

Double Butte Loop Trail Map
Double Butte Loop Trail Map – Courtesy of

Papago Park is just minutes from downtown Phoenix and is located in the midst of the Phoenix Zoo and Desert Botanical Gardens

From downtown Phoenix, take I-10 E for about two miles and take exit 147A-147B for the AZ-202 Loop E. Continue on that loop for about three miles and take Exit 4 for 52nd Street.

Turn left onto N 52nd Street and follow it for about a mile. Turn right onto E McDowell Road to enter Papago Park. You can also take the Valley Metro Transit system to Papago Park.

Various bus routes throughout the city can take you to the park entrance. Tickets cost $4.00 daily for adults and $2.00 for seniors and children 6-18. Children 5 and under ride free. 

Do You Need a Permit for Hiking in the Papago Park? 

No, you do not need a permit or a parking pass for any of the Papago Park hiking trails. The park gates and parking areas are open daily from 5:00 AM until 7:00 PM. You will find ample free parking in the lots there. 

Double Butte Loop Trailhead 

To access the Double Loop Papago Park Butte trailhead, you need to park in the West Park Drive parking lot and head north from the parking lot to the Double Butte Loop Trail sign.

You’ll find water fountains, bike racks, and picnic pavilions at the start of the trail but no restrooms. 

How Long is Papago Park Trail? 

The hike around the double Papago Buttes is 2.3 miles total around the loop. Plan for an average of about 45 minutes to 1 hour to complete it. You can start the trail in either direction. 

Other Hikes in Arizona:

Trail Description 

Papago Park Trail
Papago Park Trail – Courtesy of Sean Hobson @ Flickr

The Double Butte Loop trail makes an excellent option for hiking near Phoenix and often attracts families visiting the area who want to experience some beautiful red rock scenery.

I consider it an easy hike, and even though the path consists of hard dirt, it is wheelchair and stroller accessible. You can also bike the trail if you wish. 

Dogs are welcome in Papago Park, so feel free to bring your four-legged friend. Parts of the park even allow for them to be off-leash.

If you’re visiting the park on the weekend, you definitely won’t have solitude, as its many trails and attractions are popular with locals and visitors. 

During the duration of the trail, you will traverse the circumference of the smaller butte at the beginning of the parking lot and the bigger double butte. 

hiking Double Butte Loop Trail
Hiking Double Butte Loop Trail – Courtesy of Amy Meredith @ Flickr

Since it’s a loop trail, you can start it in either direction. I choose to take the trail clockwise, but you won’t really find too much difference elevation-wise either way you go, as the trail is mostly flat. 

I liked that the trail was well-marked and seemed like a moderate walk rather than a hike.

The city also keeps the park clean and well-maintained. I imagine that many locals make this trail their regular nightly walk. 

However, it still provided some incredible scenery. I enjoyed walking amongst the variety of cacti, other desert plants (like the Sonoran Desert Cholla), and wildflowers as I continued down the loop, especially seeing the Saguaro Cactus.

On the north side of the trail, you cut through an old amphitheater built in the 1930s. It once was used to host Easter sunrise services. 

double butte loop hike
Double Butte Loop View – Courtesy of Kelley Diwan

Although I stuck to this primary loop, I noticed that various interconnecting trails existed along the way, allowing hikers to further customize their trek and distance by connecting to other trails in the park.  

Even though you don’t gain any elevation during this hike (only 118 feet), the trail still offers some dramatic views, especially if you hike it near sunset.

The Papago Buttes remain next to you the entire time and add to the beauty of the scenery. 

At the end of the hike, the trail brings you back to the trailhead, where you can rest or have a nice picnic at the shaded ramada. 

Beautiful hike! Easy to go off route with the many trails.

Lauren S., Pro Hiker

Best Time to Hike Papago Park

Any time of year makes a great time to hike in Papago Park and complete the Double Butte Loop Trail. Since it is not a strenuous hike, you can enjoy it in all seasons.

If hiking in the summer months, remember to bring extra water and stay hydrated or hike in the mornings or evenings. 

double butte hike in papago park
Double Butte Hike in Papago Park – Courtesy of Brian Manning @ Flickr

Our Tips and Recommendations 

I enjoyed this easy hike through the famous Papago Park in Phoenix and will try to return during my next visit here. Here are some recommendations from my time spent in the park. 

  • Plan to visit the Phoenix Zoo or Desert Botanical Gardens during your trip. These attractions are a great way to extend your trip and see more of what Phoenix offers. 
  • If you do this hike in the winter, bring a pair of winter gloves to keep your hands comfortable, especially if visiting during the morning or evening hours.
  • For summer hikes, ensure that you fill your water bottle at the trailhead and wear a lot of sunscreens to protect yourself from the heat of the day. Even though it is an easy hike, it is still possible to get dehydrated. 
  • If you have the time, branch off on one of the interconnecting trails to extend your hike and see more of the beautiful Papago Park. 


How Hard Is It to Hike Papago Park?

Papago Park is a popular hiking destination for hikers of all levels. Most of the trails in Papago Park are rated as easy hikes, making them excellent options for families or less-experienced hikers who want to immerse themselves in the beautiful outdoor Phoenix landscapes.

Are There Snakes in Papago Park?

Anytime you hike in Arizona, you risk encountering snakes, particularly rattlesnakes. The trails at Papago Park are well-marked and maintained, so the chance of a sighting is rare.

However, ensure that you always stay on marked trails and keep an awareness of your surroundings.